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With trials of The Hundred, England's new format proposed to commence in 2020, scheduled to begin on Friday, the timing of Vitality T20 finals day couldn't have been more interesting. It would be interesting to see if could result in attention being drawn away from Saturday's showpiece event at Edgbaston. On the other hand, Finals Day is an opportunity for T20 Blast to assert it's quality which is often compared with the Big Bash League and Indian Premier League. Regardless of how it pans out for The Hundred, we are all set for an exciting weekend ahead with three T20 Blast games to be played on Saturday.
The opening match of the day, the first semifinal, will be played between the two Group A teams - Worcestershire Rapids and Lancashire Lightning. Considering the fact that both the teams had a terrific league stage and a good run in the playoffs thereafter, we expect a hard-fought contest between the two sides.
With Worcestershire Rapids set to make their first appearance in a Finals Day, only the Falcons remain as the only team who haven't seen this party even once. While they were expected to make it this far prior to the beginning of the tournament, they've been the most powerful team, going by the points table. They also ousted Gloucestershire, a tough team, in knock-out game by a remarkable margin.
They've been in terrific form this season with Callum Ferguson, the South Australian batsman, has scored 390 runs for the Rapids at an impressive strike-rate of 141. However, he won't be available to play on the Finals day which appears to be one of the dark clouds hovering over the Rapids' fate. Moeen Ali, who looked in splendid form in the Test series against India and prior to that, is expected to play a vital role in Ferguson's absence.
The nineteen-year-old sensation, Pat Brown, has been in terrific form for the Rapids who also happens to be the competition's highest wicket-taker. With English season coming to an end, the pitches have started assisting spinners and skipper Moeen Ali will have a huge role to play with the ball as well. The likes of Dillon Pennington and Ed Barnard will further add variety and strength to their bowling attack.
Joe Clarke, Moeen Ali, Tom Fell, Brett D Oliveira, Ben Cox, Ross Whiteley, Ed Barnard, WD Parnell, Daryl Mitchell, Luke Wood, Patrick Brown.
Lancashire Lightning perhaps enjoyed the outing of the season in their quarter-final match, against Kent, where they wrapped up the Spitfires to a modest total to eventually chase it down with relative ease. Their spinners, Matt Parkinson and Zahir Khan, were the chief-wreckers on a surface that turned square.
The return of Jos Buttler to the Lancashire lineup will be a huge boost for them especially considering the form he's been in the run-up to the competition. Keaton Jennings, too, has been released by the ECB to play on the finals day, but his form continues to be a cause of concern for the Lightning. Alex Davies did well to drag Lancashire across the line in the league stage and the return of England contingent should make things a little less pressurizing for him.
Following a brilliant Test Series, James Anderson will return to play white-ball cricket for the Lightning and though not playing white-ball cricket for England any longer, he will be a force to reckon with. While their bowling is centered mostly around their spinners, the pace bowling will have to be at their absolute best, with Edgbaston's surface not expected to be as conducive to spin as Canterbury.
Alex Davies, Jos Buttler, Arron Lilley, Liam Livingstone, KK Jennings, DJ Vilas, Jordan Clark, James Faulkner, Toby Lester, Matt Parkinson, Zahir Khan.
With some assistance available for quick bowlers in the morning and batting likely to become easier as the match progresses, the team winning the toss is expected to bowl first.
Read our guide on toss predictions to learn how we analyze and come up with our tips.
Unlike we saw in Lancashire's last game at Canterbury, Edgbaston Cricket Ground is not likely to offer similar assistance for the spinners. It is further validated by the fact that spinners have accounted for a little more than a fourth of wickets to fall here. There is likely to be some assistance for quick bowlers early in the morning with the new which will vanish as the match progresses. Overall, it's expected to be a true batting wicket with a quick outfield. With negligible chances of rain and partly cloudy sky, Saturday is going to be an excellent day to play Cricket.
With three potentially nail-biting games scheduled to be played on Saturday, it could not get any better for English Cricket fans. Worcestershire Rapids have had a dream run up to this day and they'll be looking to take it all the way. Lancashire, on the other hand, finished third in the league stage and will be strengthened further with Jos Buttler, Keaton Jennings, and James Anderson back in the team. The absence of Callum Ferguson and Martin Guptill has clearly dented the strength of Rapids' batting which is likely to be exploited by experienced Lightning bowlers. Due to aforementioned reasons, Lancashire Lightning, bolstered by the return of England contingent, are firm favorites to win the first semifinal of the day.
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